AI talent hub will vitalise Malaysia’s digital future, says Skymind

As it is widely held that a digital workforce is a vital driver of a nation’s digital economy growth, the current coronavirus crisis must not delay talent development and growth, says Malaysia-headquartered artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem pioneer Skymind Holdings Berhad (Skymind)

Speaking recently to media, Skymind vice president (talent development) Sharifah Nur Izma (pic) noted that talent in Malaysia is being gradually aligned to digitalisation efforts but that “industry has a key role in the private-public collaborative efforts to accelerate the digital talent bandwidth.”

Citing a Towers Perrin HR study, which suggests 84% of businesses from various industries are already challenged by the attraction and retention of such talent, Sharifah points out as an example that specially-trained AI professionals currently number just over 22,000 globally, of which less than 14% are currently on the market for new opportunities.

The elusiveness of critical talent has inspired many organisations to disrupt traditional practices around recruitment and retention. Non-monetary incentives such as continuous learning, new and exciting challenges, and flexible work arrangements, are proving to be more interesting and highly effective with digital natives.

According to a Boston Consulting Group’s Decoding Digital Talent report warns that digital talents are ‘more willing than nonexperts to leave home to improve their careers’.

Two-thirds (67%) of digital experts in the report would relocate outside of their home country for work, compared with 55% of nonexperts. Also noteworthy is the popularity of regional moves and relocating to an area with a common language or culture.

She adds that as this trend particularly applied to talent in developing economies, “it is critical that we work together to both nurture and retain talent who would move to countries that offer better opportunities to advance in their jobs.”

In many scenarios, digital talent was defined as someone who knows hot interact in a digital environment such as social media, and software used for work.

“Today, your skills must make business sense in a digitalised world,” said Sharifah, adding that building a sustainable talent foundation remains paramount among Skymind’s ecosystem strategies.

“One of these implementations is our certifications programme to align talent to industry requirements as a key driver in upskilling and reskilling our fresh graduates,” she said, and referenced the company’s recent campaign to build a 300-strong ‘AI Dream Team from the company’s Malaysian base, which had also been reported by Business Today. You may read the report here.

Although a company with global presence, Skymind has inherent links with Malaysia as two of its founders – CEO Shawn Tan and COO Dr Goh – are from Perlis, Sharifah said.

“We believe the whole of Asia possesses untapped talent, and that Malaysia is an ideal hub to develop future-ready skills,” she continued. “Growing an AI hub in this country is part of our lifeblood to pioneer an AI ecosystem.”

Part of the company’s investment into building an AI infrastructure is to boost R&D capabilities, which are essential to push forward the practical possibilities of AI, explained Sharifah.

“We [Skymind] hold that Malaysia – and indeed Asia – has a great deal of untapped potential, capable of acting on the frontier of the AI revolution, and that our ecosystem will thus be fortified to provide real world advances in many industry and public sector sectors,” she said.

Indeed, the aforementioned study suggests that half of the top-ten destinations for digital experts in Asia-Pacific are within the region: Australia, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, and South Korea.

“Skymind’s culture is charged with people who are curious and find fulfilment in finding new solutions to better the way we work and play,” she said, adding that an AI institute coupled with Skymind Campus is a key part of the company’s expansion in this region,

“I am reminded of McKinsey’s insight on the link between talent and enhanced transformation: acquiring top talent can yield double-digit investment savings by accelerating the transformation process by even 20 to 30 percent,” she added.

“Building our digital future is about talent-driven transformation,” Sharifah further said.

“Malaysia’s 63rd Independence will take on a new digital piquancy as this year’s National Day will be celebrated under a new normal. Virtual events symbolise and channel the rich diversity of our nation and remind us all of the enormous energy and talent that can enrich our onward progress into the digital age.”

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